4-H birdhouses continue 55 years of tradition in Cassville
Beeson family continues helping local bluebirds thrive
With spring officially here, residents out walking may notice a new sight along the Greenway Trail in the city park — brightly-colored birdhouses.
The houses, which carry a history three-generations deep, are tough to miss with their robin-egg blue color. The story began in the 1960s, when the late Lawrence Beeson built the houses for a 4-H project to provide a home for bluebirds, Missouri’s state bird.
Now, about 300 are placed throughout Barry County and are maintained by the family.
“My dad started it in 1962 and a few years later the Black Oak 4-H Club of Wheaton got involved,” said Lloyd Beeson. “I was in 4-H the year when he started the project. He was the woodworking leader for the club. I got out of the service in 1973, and dad and I picked it up. We slowed down in the 1980s, when dad was dairy farming, and picked it back up in the early 1990s. The birdhouses are placed past Oak Ridge Church on Highway 248 and north of Cassville and east of Butterfield. And from north of Cassville on Highway 37 across from the library, then toward Barry Electric and down Y Highway.
“You can’t go out north of town on Y Highway without seeing the boxes,” he said.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the houses provide nurseries to incubate eggs and rear young. A bluebird house placed by March can raise as many as three broods by summer’s end. There are more today, thanks to families like the Beesons who build the houses, which have a simple design and are strategically placed.
“We have better luck with the houses facing east,” Lloyd said. “The experts said to point them southeast because it protects the box from the evening sun. We try to attract bluebirds, but have also had chickadees, sparrows and some others. It seems the bluebirds like this design of box the best for their nesting. The Missouri Department of Conservation has a blueprint of the birdhouses online.
“We know when they’ve been there because of the wear-and-tear because they’ll hang on the lip of the box. Usually the birds are out looking for a place to nest late February, early March. If you look you’ll see a few.”
Just look for the bright blue color, of the box, and the bird. Poet Henry David Thoreau wrote that the brilliantly colored bluebird “carries the sky on its back.” The houses are spread out about one-quarter mile to give the birds space.
“Bluebirds are a little territorial,” said Brent Beeson, Lloyd’s son.
“They’ll come back every year,” Lloyd said. “I’d say we have bluebirds in about 60 percent of them.”
The whole family is involved in the project.
“Dad does most of the building,” Brent said, adding his brother, James, and sister, Krystle, also help. “Our grandmother paints and the grandkids have helped build a few, too.”
Brent’s son, Cody Beeson, is 16. He’s been tagging along on the birdhouse expeditions since he was practically a toddler.
“It’s special,” he said of being a part of a family project that helps wildlife thrive.
The family also maintains the boxes.
“We’ll clean them up, paint them if needed in early fall and late spring before they start nesting,” Brent said. “And, we repair or replace the ones that are damaged. Then they’re good to go for another year.”
The family would like to get local 4-H groups involved with the project again, including the Exeter Trailblazers, and revive the Black Oak Club of Wheaton.
“I think involvement in 4-H clubs is a pretty good idea,” Brent said. “I was in it when I was young. I learned a lot of things. It also keeps kids out of trouble and gives them something to do.”
In recent years, the family lost several boxes through vandalism.
“We lost three about 100 boxes through the north side of town,” Brent said.
But, the community and local lumber businesses showed up.
“Something was said and several came to LeCompte’s Lumber, and lumber was donated to rebuild the houses, and we ended up with about 90 boxes thanks to the community jumping in to help.”
If anyone wants a box, the family said they will gladly make one for them.
“If people just want the box, we ask them not to take them off the trail,” Lloyd said. “We’ll bring them one.”
“If they want a box, we’d welcome a donation, but if they want one we can get them one,” Brent said. “We just want the community to enjoy them and if they see signs of vandalism, let the sheriff know because it is the state bird.”
For more information about the project, people may call the Beeson family at 417-847-3456, or visit their Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/mvmjb5y. An article with instructions for building the houses can be found on the MDC site at: http://tinyurl.com/l4aqous.